Theodor Fontane's 1894 novel is ranked alongside 'Anna Karenina' and 'Madame Bovary' for the subtlety of its psychological portrait of an unsatisfying marriage from the female viewpoint. Rainer Werner Fassbinder s acclaimed film version, shot in silvery black and white in a style that sometimes recalls silent cinema, is scrupulously faithful to Fontane, whose text is quoted at every opportunity. But it also showcases a spellbinding performance from Hanna Schygulla in the title role. Married at seventeen to Baron von Instetten (Wolfgang Schenk) a much older district councillor who previously had designs on her mother, the bored and naive Effi spends his long absences innocently dallying with the charming Major Crampas (Ulli Lommel). That this is interpreted in the worst possible way comes as little surprise, and lets Fassbinder mercilessly expose the way that proper society will always conspire to suppress the faintest flicker of a truly independent spirit.